If you are reading this blog from behind a computer screen in the UK then you may well be familiar with the new Channel 4 show ‘How Not to Get Old’. If you reside anywhere else in the world, let me reassure you that this programme is not about enlightening viewers with the secret of eternal youth. No, it’s about hacking, injecting, filling, puffing, scrubbing, nipping and tucking your way to society’s current standard for perfection.
Presenter Anna Richardson, once an intelligent promoter of positive self image, seems to have reinvented herself as much through her surgically rejuvenated skin as her hypocrisy. This is a woman who once presented a programme which showed teenagers gigantic photos of real naked bodies (saggy boobs, dangly scrotums and stretch marks a go-go in the Sex Education Show) to redress the inaccuracies presented by the pneumatic, hair free, lithe porn bodies young people are being told to expect as the norm. Anna was once an average sized woman. Anna was once telling her viewers to be confident and get real about what the body beautiful actually looks like. Fabulous! About time! What a great role model for teenagers everywhere! Almost…
Fast forward a few years and she has gone from champion of real reflections, to just another a hawker of beauty myths. You see, presenting How Not to Get Old is a pretty good break for Anna who these days admits to being a fan of ‘non-invasive’ procedures. She has her own website for her ‘Body Blitz’ regime, on which she tells us that she’s just ‘an ordinary girl who’s struggled with my weight since I was a little girl’ and… has lost two stone, has a diet book to sell and looks super hot in a tight dress now she’s all skinny. Good for her of course. She feels great, looks great, and is healthier – hoorah! It’s just that I feel a bit cheated you see. Not for myself you understand. No, no. For the millions of women out there who have recently looked in the mirror and pulled at the skin on their temples, smoothed their foreheads or pouted their lips, just to see what they might look like if they could wind back the years. Why did you do it? I did it because I started to believe that maybe I should look a little fresher, that maybe I really did need a spookily smooth forehead that, no matter what they tell you, is only possible after Botox. Nobody over the age of 30 is line free by nature’s hand alone. You can only have the skin of a 20 year old if you are in fact a 20 year old. It’s really that simple. You can minimise damage with a good skin care routine. You can hold back some of the years with SPF 50 and a good diet. You might even avoid crows feet by working as a freelancer and staying indoors and alone for six years (seriously, I’m convinced that is how I did it!). But you cannot stop time. No really, you can’t. Even if you pull and pluck yourself to perfection on the outside, you are simply wallpapering the cracks as you are undoubtedly still ageing on the inside. That’s not just me ranting with bitterness, nope, that’s biology.
I’m all for looking good, making the best of what you have and throwing on a dress and heels if the mood takes you. I like make-up, pretty hair and all that jazz. What I don’t like is being led to believe that age is bad, wrinkles are a curse to all who have to endure looking at you, and that pretending you look fabulously young just because you are gifted and more special than everyone else is normal. It’s not. It’s a lie. Have surgery, have fillers, have implants, and lifts and lasers for all I care, but don’t pretend you are a superior being and that all those who do not look 10 years younger than they are must be failing and inferior. When somebody says ‘you look great’, take the compliment but admit that it has taken you £3,000, 16 hours, a pint of blood and three weeks of bed rest to achieve it.
I worry about the impact of these programmes on my sons and my daughters. I don’t want them to channel all of their energies into a pampered exterior. I want them to work on their minds, their self esteem, their talents and their dreams. If they want to poof and preen a bit when they’re done, great, go have fun safe in the knowledge that when the lips are too crinkled, the eyes too baggy and the bellies too stretched they will still have so much to offer. I fear that all we’ll have left when our young men and women become (chronologically) old is a bunch of shallow clones with the uncomfortably taught skin trademark of our time.
So if I could pick up where Anna Richardson left off a few years before the diet and detox kicked in, here a just some of the things I want my children to know about their bodies and appearance…
There is no such thing as perfect. No really, there isn’t.
Yes it is normal to have hair there. Yep and there… even if your friend doesn’t.
One boob or testicle that is a different size to the other is also normal. It might correct itself, it might not.
Stretch marks will find you in good time. You wait and see.
Boys – the average size is around 6 inches, not 10+ inches so don’t worry.
Girls – less is more, so leave a little to the imagination.
Only you have the right to decide who you share your body with.
These days any naked or semi naked photo/video you take or allow to be taken WILL reappear on the internet and your friends, family, future kids and future employers will most likely see it at some point.
That boy or girl who says you have a fat ass, gross cellulite or crooked nose… obsesses every night about their own flaws and raises yours to make themselves feel better.
The more perfect somebody tries to make you believe they are, the more insecure they actually are about themselves.
Age is a privilege (your Nan never got past her mid 30s and your Grandad past his late 40s, so love every line).
Try to achieve more laughter lines than frown lines and you won’t go far wrong.
Look at us, your Mom and Dad. See all those lines and grey hairs? You and your siblings helped make many of them. You are as integral a part of who we are as our own fingerprints.